Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk down the West Wing Colonnade between meetings at the White House in Washington, DC, February 13, 2017.
A deal on NAFTA is “getting pretty close,” President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.
But, he added, a renegotiated trade deal with Mexico and Canada is probably “weeks or months away.”
The seemingly contradictory guidance comes as Vice President Mike Pence is set to head to the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, where he will meet with leaders from around the region this weekend. Trump canceled plans to attend himself earlier this week. He was expected to use the meeting to show a sign of progress with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts on renegotiating the 24-year-old trade deal.
Trump told the White House press corps on Thursday there wasn’t a timeline for NAFTA talks. Signs of progress have emerged in recent days, as the parties push to get something finished before Mexico’s presidential election in July.
GOP lawmakers have been concerned about the Trump administration’s escalating trade rhetoric with China and its effect on American agriculture. The U.S. farm belt could be particularly hard hit by a trade war with China, which has threatened retaliatory tariffs on a range of farm products.
Trump said that although farmers have been hurt by bad trade deals, China is now selling a lot of U.S. beef because of a conversation he had with China’s President Xi Jinping.